A late-19th-century U.S. Army fort is the setting for this retelling of the Nutcracker ballet.
Centennia, a white girl with sausage curls, and her freckled brother, Caleb, are eagerly awaiting a Christmas party at Fort Davis, Texas. The guests at the party include Col. Grierson, who gives Centennia a wooden nutcracker. Jealous, Caleb damages the nutcracker. In the middle of the night, Centennia returns to the parlor, where suddenly the tree, the nutcracker, and all of the toys begin to grow. Centennia is nearly overpowered by rattlesnakes, but the swashbuckling nutcracker comes to her rescue. He magically becomes a handsome soldier who takes Centennia to a fantasy land of Texas treats. There she meets the “Bluebonnet Fairy” and witnesses the “Dance of the Mockingbirds,” square-dancing armadillos, and the “Waltz of the Wildflowers.” Pedantic storytelling and undistinguished illustrations make this an unexceptional book. An author’s note with facts about Fort Davis and the historical figure of Col. Grierson, who began the regiment of the so-called buffalo soldiers, provides background for the presence at the fort of two nonwhite characters, a soldier and a little boy. It does not, however, address the pueblo within which the dances are performed.
Appeal may be limited to those children with “eyes as wide as the Texas skies.” (Picture book. 4-6)